Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Unions hit out at Stormont ahead of peace rally

Trade union leaders have called for a "shared unity of purpose" in the Stormont Executive to tackle crucial issues in health and education.

Ahead of a rally at Belfast City Hall tomorrow – organised in the aftermath of the failure to reach agreement in talks chaired by Richard Haass – the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also hit out at politicians who have criticised the event.

Former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson and Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry have insisted the Executive has agreed a range of measures to tackle one of ICTU's s biggest concerns over youth unemployment.

But as details of the 1pm rally were being finalised, ICTU assistant general secretary Peter Bunting said: "Some ministers may say that they are doing all that they can – the problem is that they are not doing nearly as much as they could if there was a shared unity of purpose in the NI Executive – and it is obvious that there is not"

Mr Bunting said that, more than a decade ago, the Executive prioritised public health through its Investing For Health strategy, which has now been replaced with a "flawed strategy" called Transforming Your Care.

"This is leading to privatisation by stealth and has led to scandals such as the attempted mass closure of care homes last year.

"On the other hand, we have seen endless delays with the implementation of the Education & Skills Authority, a unified body which might take a holistic view of our education system and begin to address the shocking levels of academic under-achievement."

The ICTU official said almost half the children who qualified for free school meals left school with less than five GCSEs.

"These are the young men, whose anger and alienation make them perfect recruits for shadowy groups."

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